East of Paris Bookstore

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Slava

Today is Lazarus Saturday and Mr. Wonderful and I attended the Slava of our Bishop. A Slava is a Serbian Orthodox custom whereby a family celebrates its baptism into Christianity, circa 620-850 A.D., on the feast day of a particular saint. For more about the history and traditions of a Slava, go here, here and/or here.


One of the traditional foods that is blessed and served at a Slava is žito (wheat) also known as koljivo; it is similar to the kutia (though minus any poppy seeds) made in Russia and Ukraine. For more about koljivo, go here. The žito is often served as a mound on a large flat plate and covered in powdered sugar and sometimes decorated with walnuts or chocolate chips placed in the shape of a cross. However, our Bishop’s creative mother molded the žito in to the shape of a Romanesque church.
How to make žito? I make it using equal amouts of
  • cracked wheat (and sometimes add a handful of four-grain cereal for more texture) cooked per package instructions (usually 1 part cereal to 2 parts water) and cooled to room temperature
  • ground walnuts
  • powdered sugar
plus dashes of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and Cointreau.

Start with equal amounts of all the ingredients, say 2 cups of each, and stir with a wooden spoon. The mixture should be very thick and sticky. Adjust the sugar to taste. Also, based on personal preference, add cinnamon, allspice or cloves, nutmeg, and a teaspoon of Cointreau (an orange liqueur) or rum. Put in a decorative bowl and chill. Before serving, keep it in the bowl and decorate with powdered sugar, nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, etc., or unmold unto a large plate and proceed to decorate.

Another serving idea is to put the žito into chocolate dessert shells and top each shell with a few toasted almonds. However, if the Slava occurs during Great Lent or another fasting period, the dessert shells may not be used if they contain any animal products (such as milk).

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